Chrome

Chrome

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 11/24/2003 for PC  

It’s amazing how little we value something until it’s entirely too late. In today’s world we put heavy value on diamonds, gold, rubies, silver and platinum because they’re relatively scarce. Who’d have thunk that in the future the most valuable item would be, of all things, chrome. That’s right, make sure to hold on to those old Chevelles because your grandchildren will be able to make a pretty penny off of the five tons of chrome that it has on its bumpers. Remember all those guys you used to make fun of for putting chrome on their engine blocks? Well they just might be the next Bill Gates, well in Strategy First and Techland’s tomorrow that is.

You play the role of Bolt Logan (no, seriously), a do-good mercenary who is notorious for his 100 percent success rate. In the beginning of the game you’re sent out on a routine mission when suddenly you’re betrayed by your partner and left for dead. After fighting your way to safety and making a pact with a mysterious leotard-clad blond, you’ll be thrust onto the path of revenge. It’s a very simple introduction that serves as a good device for plenty of asskicking. Besides, since when did shooters need to have good storylines? I don’t need a reason to kill endless hordes of mindless goons, just saddle me with a decent weapon, copious amounts of ammo and my eyes will light up like a little kid on Christmas Eve.

Our lead character is voiced by the same man responsible for the lead character of Unreal II so you can expect the cheese factor to be on extra high here. I was expecting some corny dialogue but this was much more than I bargained for. You’ll get lines like “There’s no escape even if you propose a temporary alliance with ten combat droids.” Who the HELL talks like that? Complicating this is the fact that the game becomes a bit too cutscene heavy, forcing you to sit down and watch the action as opposed to partaking in it. Again, the storyline isn’t all that bad but some of the dialogue could provide enough cheese to feed a Frenchman for weeks.

But that’s not where Chrome fails, the storyline is decent enough, but the action just doesn’t hold up when compared with today’s shooters. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of the weapons and the arsenal has a very satisfying feel to it, but some of the AI and mission structure really bring this one down. Chrome lacks balance between its missions; some will lead you into frantic non-stop gunfights while others will have you trudging long distances for no apparent reason.

Instead of going for some real-world weapons the designers opted for a series of generic look alikes that convey the same message. You have your requisite sniper rifle, shotgun, assault rifle, sub-machine gun and grenades. Combat really isn’t all that bad but the settings in which these battles take place most certainly are.

It’s painfully difficult to make out enemies, making even harder to hit. At first I thought this was attributed to the game’s large outdoor environments but I still ran into the same problems in close quarters. The main problem is that the enemies are too dark and too small, it’s almost impossible to see them. Many times I ran right by a guard, not knowing that he was there until he unloaded a whole clip into me. Other games have this problem at times but they counteract it by giving the player an artificial means of visual enhancement. In Call of Duty bringing the sights up to your eyes gives you a minor zoom but in Chrome there’s no such advantage. Games like Unreal II didn’t need this because the enemy designs were so vibrant and the action was less than realistic, in Chrome you can die in a matter of seconds. Instead you’re left looking for needles in haystacks, needles with guns and grenades. Things get a little better via some Deus Ex-esque implants that you’ll acquire later on in the game. Even with them, spotting your enemies is absurdly difficult.

To compound this enemies have deadly-wicked aim, I’m talking twice as good as the Nazis in Return to Castle Wolfenstein accuracy. By the time you’ve spotted an enemy you can pretty much expect to lose a small chunk of health. What really makes this frustrating is that the enemy AI is pretty hit or miss for the most part. Sometimes they’re excellent marksmen who have impeccable aim while the next moment they’re bumbling morons that you can just run past without eliciting a gunshot or a yell. It’s especially frustrating after you reload a save game and found that the guy who took you out in two seconds is now standing still and acting as a human bullet magnet.

Strategy First bills Chrome as a "tactical FPS" but few, if any, elements that compose this genre are present here. There are no squadmates, no planning phases, no commands, no tactical maps and no tactics to be found. Instead the game tries to employ other elements that pass as tactics such as terrain and elevation differences. There are some serious flaws in this though as the game tries to rationalize its large outdoor environments for strategic purposes. It's like calling HALO a strategic shooter when we all know that it's a straight-up FPS. Sure, elevation differences can give you the advantage but that's true in most FPS titles. When you see the words "tactical FPS" don't conjure up visions of Rainbow Six or Hidden & Dangerous 2 in your head because you're in for a huge disappointment.Another drawback to the game is its clunky interface. In a move that shows that this game desperately wanted to be Unreal meets Deus Ex, it employs an interface that very closely resembles Eidos’ magnum opus. Except there’s a huge problem, this game is much more action-oriented than Deus Ex. Most times you’ll have to go through your inventory in the middle of open space while enemies take potshots at you. It’s all very frustrating and annoying. Speaking of annoying, the inventory system that Chrome employs ensures that you can never carry more than one weapon and one sidearm at a time (in an earlier draft of this review I mistakenly noted that you could not carry a sidearm). One of the problems with this is that the game emphasizes realism in one respect and then bends the rules of reality in another. I succumb to the realism of a limited inventory yet my character can still take an exorbinant amount of gunfire without losing any gusto.

It’s not all bad though, probably the most well done portion of Chrome lies in the vehicular combat. While not quite up to snuff with HALO, the vehicles are an awesome addition that really help beef up this lacking package. They all maneuver and handle very realistically and their arsenal is very convincing and powerful. It’s also nice to see that the designers allow for you to slow enemies out of their vehicles as opposed to making you blow them up entirely.

While some of the environments are nice they’re not quite up to snuff with the next generation of first person shooters. In recent years the FPS genre has been used as a showcase for graphics makers to show off their new technology. In this regard Chrome does absolutely nothing to push the limits of my card, yet it’s a massive resource hog. Environments are rather bland and the architecture is really nothing to write home about. Some of the elements are interactive but most of the environments can’t be destroyed or defaced. Most of the outdoor elements fare a little better, especially the well-done foliage, but it’s nothing to get excited about.

I have no qualms with the audio; in fact I’m actually impressed with some of it. Chrome makes excellent use of EAX effects here as the audio from the indoor sections sound decidedly different from the audio effects occurring outdoors. Indoor sounds have a convincing effect that makes them sound hollow due to occlusion and reverberation effects. Most of the voice acting is cheesy but it comes through nice and clear.

In addition to not being much to look at Chrome is an amazing resource hog. It runs rather sluggishly on my P4 2.4Ghz with an Ati Radeon 9700 All-in-Wonder, a system that’s capable of running Unreal II at high resolution with little to no slowdown. What really disturbs me is the game’s performance on my laptop. My P4 2.0Ghz laptop is capable of running recent top tier titles such as Max Payne 2 and Freedom Fighters without a hitch, but forget about trying to run Chrome on it. It gives new meaning to the term sluggish with frame rates consistently running in the single-digits. For a game that doesn’t look so hot this really shouldn’t be such a huge problem.

If you’re looking for an excellent multiplayer game then keep right on looking. You have your standard FPS fodder here including variants of capture the flag and domination. Nothing too special and the lack of players on the servers makes for a rather boring experience. Could be fun if you’re looking for something different on LAN parties but not much else.

And that’s just is, Chrome is just so dated and boring that it really can’t carve its way into the crowded first person shooter market. It borrows some of the best elements from today’s premiere first person shooters but this is a case where the sum of the parts don’t quite add up to the whole. Decent outing but I wouldn’t put it on the top of my Christmas list this year.
Decent combat, excellent vehicular element and large environments make for a seemingly cohesive package. Too bad the sum of the parts don't quite equal the whole. Too much wandering around and watching cutscenes, not enough action.

Rating: 6.4 Flawed

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

comments powered by Disqus